When Henley on Thames puts on events, they certainly like to make an impact, which is exactly what they have done with the Henley Royal Regatta, one of the most famous rowing regattas in the world. Not many events can boast the record of being held every year (except during the world wars) since 1839.
Henley became a ‘Royal’ Regatta in 1851, and since then the reigning Monarch has agreed to be patron of the event. Various members of the Royal Family have also been spotted attending
When the event was first introduced, it had more of a public focus, with visitors enjoying a fairground and amusements, along with some rowing. The Henley Regatta that grew and developed out of this is a much more competitive event, with amateur rowing events the main focus. The very first Henley Regattas took place over one day, but eventually became so popular that they now run for 5 days, with qualifying events held to reduce the large number of entries.
Henley Royal Regatta is no ordinary rowing event though. What makes it unique is that it was founded before any national or international rowing federations were brought in. While it later garnered the support of these organisations, it can run on its own rules.
The end result is a 1 mile 550 yard course, which starts at the unique Temple Island, and carries on down the River Thames. There are around 19 different types of events, for single and double sculls, quadruple sculls, pairs, eights, and fours, with coxed and coxless boats. Each of the 19 events has a number of races, and heats within these races, which amounts to a lot of rowing. Men, women, and juniors can all take part, and race against one other boat in each heat, so if you visit you’re guaranteed to catch a large number of races, especially in the early stages.
You’ll also notice an international flavour to the Henley Royal Regatta, which attracts student or club rowing crews from all over the world. In fact there can be up to 100 or more foreign entries each year. The list of past entrants and winners includes Brown University in America, Brisbane Boys College in Australia, Allemannia Rowing Club in Germany and the Commercial Rowing Club in Ireland. Rowers from across the world revel in the uniqueness of this regatta, and with such a diverse range of entrants and races, it’s easy to see why the spectators come back year after year too.